We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusNov. 9, 2020NOT STARTED
Previous StatusAug. 17, 2020NOT STARTED

Why “Not Started”

In 2020 alone, the federal government along with 9 provinces – BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador – have all initiated actions against the acknowledgement and acceptance of Aboriginal Rights and Title including the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius i.e. Aboriginal Rights and Title and Indigenous laws and traditions are secondary to provincial ownership and control of resource extraction. (See IW Status Updates Nov. 9, 2020 Part 1-Current Problems and Issues)

Not a lot of progress on this C2A within any jurisdiction although the federal government has repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius through Minister of Crown Relations and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May, 2017. No formal, legislative repudiation, however, or details on how governments(s) will reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken a minor step in deciding to rename “Discovery Day” after consultations with Indigenous governments.

Significant Changes and Deletions on official federal government website:

  • Changed “we will create” new legislation and policies to “we will consider” new legislation and policies”.
  • Deleted reference to Bill C-262 “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Provincial and Territory Responses to Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius

Federal Government

Aug. 17, 2020 Rebuilding First Nations Governance Project

Carleton University – Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council is funding $2.5 million over six years to support the Rebuilding First Nations Governance project, an investigation into transforming Indian Act governance. Carleton University researcher Frances Abele in the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) and project co-founders Satsan (Herb George) of the Centre for First Nations Governance and Catherine MacQuarrie, a fellow with SPPA, tackle perhaps the most intractable issue in Indigenous-Canada relations: how can First Nations work free of Indian Act governance to become fully self-governing within Canada? RFNG is an alliance of First Nation communities and tribal councils, and academic researchers and practitioners, committed to working from the community level up to end Indian Act governance and build alternatives that realize the inherent right to self-government as affirmed in the Constitution Act.

“At the core of this partnership is the understanding that positive change away from the Indian Act must be led by First Nation communities,” said Abele. “The academic and practitioner partners are taking their lead from First Nation priorities, and we build upon the experience of Satsan and his colleagues at the Centre for First Nations Governance.”

Saskatchewan

Sept. 16, 2020 – Métis Nation -Saskatchewan has filed a claim against the provincial government challenging the validity of the “2010 First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework” that “doesn’t recognize Métis assertions of Aboriginal title to land and resources. Last year Métis in Saskatchewan and Alberta filed a massive land claim, seeking roughly 122,000 square kilometers in northwest Saskatchewan and northeast Alberta. The claim seeks redress for land lost to the Métis more than a century ago through the scrip system.” (stripped Métis of most of their land in the 1880’s after the Northwest Rebellion and acknowledged by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013)

Newfoundland and Labrador

June 18, 2020 – Renaming “Discovery Day” which was established to celebrate the discovery of Newfoundland by John Cabot in 1497. Consultations must take place with Indigenous governments and organizations in the spirit of reconciliation regarding this holiday

Working Group of Ministers on the Review of Laws and Policies Related to Indigenous Peoples

Feb. 22, 2017 – Prime Minister Trudeau announced the review of laws and policies related to Indigenous Peoples. The Working Group of Ministers responsible for the review will:

  • examine relevant federal laws, policies, and operational practices to help ensure the Crown is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights;
  • adhere to international human rights standards, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and
  • support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

The Working Group will work with Indigenous leaders, youth, and experts on various legal and policy questions relating to Indigenous Peoples. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, will chair the Working Group, which will comprise six ministers who have significant responsibilities for the relevant statutes and policies to be reviewed.

  • Supported by the Privy Council Office, the working group will comprise:
    • The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
    • The Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
    • The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (Chair)
    • The Hon. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health
    • The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
    • The Hon. James Gordon Carr, Minister of Natural Resources

What is the status of the Working Group? The Hon. Jody-Wilson Raybould and the Hon Jane Philpott are no longer members of the Liberal Party. The Hon. Domenic LeBlanc is now President of the Privy Council. The Hon.Jean-Yves Duclos is now President of the Treasury Board.

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is committed to renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

In May 2017, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Government of Canada publically stated: “The Doctrine of Discovery has no place in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.” Further, in 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the concept of terra nullius never applied in Canada, as confirmed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners, the government will consider new federal legislation and policies to formalize the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights, including the right of self-determination and the inherent right of self-government.

The following measures have been undertaken since 2015:

  • endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and committed to its full implementation
  • established the Working Group of Ministers on the Review of Laws and Policies Related to Indigenous Peoples whose work is now being built upon by the new Cabinet Committee on Reconciliation
  • adopted and released the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples
  • adopted new strategies to pursue negotiation rather than litigation as the preferred path to resolve disputes, including the release of the Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples
  • worked with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to co-develop and advance shared priorities 

Building on these initiatives, the Government of Canada will continue to explore additional ways to address Call to Action 47.

Significant Changes and Deletions on official federal government website:

  • Changed “we will create” new legislation and policies to “we will consider” new legislation and policies”.
  • Deleted reference to Bill C-262 “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples